Blinken in Jordan seeking to avoid regional war

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The United States’ top diplomat was in Jordan on Sunday as part of a Middle East tour aiming to ensure the Israel-Hamas war does not spread.

Antony Blinken

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Amman on Saturday evening ahead of expected meetings with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Also seeking to get more aid into the besieged Gaza Strip, under Israeli bombardment for three months, Blinken is to visit a World Food Programme facility in the Jordanian capital, a senior American official said.

The war began on October 7 with an unprecedented attack against Israel by Gaza-based Hamas militants.

Regional tensions have soared since Tuesday when a strike in a Beirut stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, a Hamas ally, killed Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri. A US Defense Department official has told AFP that Israel carried out the strike.

In brief remarks on the Greek island of Crete before he travelled to Jordan, Blinken said there is “real concern” over the Israel-Lebanon border, which even before the Aruri strike had seen daily exchanges of fire.

“We want to do everything possible to make sure that we don’t see escalation there” and to avoid an “endless cycle of violence”, Blinken said.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah group on Saturday said it fired more than 60 rockets at an Israeli military base in retaliation for Aruri’s killing.

The Israeli military said it had identified around 40 rocket launches from Lebanese territory and its forces had struck a cell responsible for firing some of them.

Additional exchanges occurred later in the day.

Blinken said he wanted to ensure that concerned countries “are also using their ties, using their influence, using their relationships with some of the actors that might be involved to keep a lid on things, to make sure that we’re not seeing the spread of conflict”.

Turkey has a “vital role” in that regard, said Blinken, who is making his fourth wartime trip to the region.

On Saturday Blinken met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and “emphasised the need to prevent the conflict from spreading”, the US State Department said.

From Turkey, Blinken headed to Greece where, he said, he spoke with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis about another side-effect of the Israel-Hamas war.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile strikes towards targets in the Red Sea and Israel. This has disrupted shipping in the area vital for world trade, and contributed to the fears of wider war.

The Iran-backed Huthis say they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians.

Later Sunday, Blinken travels to the Gulf emirate of Qatar and to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

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